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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2011: Contify, Delhi, India

Posted on Thursday, Jun 9th 2011

Contify is a content aggregation and distribution company based in New Delhi, India that markets content obtained through its partnerships with 250 of India’s leading and niche publications. That content, more than 3,000 business news stories, is then distributed daily to clients in the form of global information databases such as Dow Jones Factiva, Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg.

The idea for Contify came to Delhi native, Mohit Bhakuni, during his tenure as the head of the content syndication department at Hindustan Times Media Limited (HTML). He had experience working with information databases like Factiva not only while pursuing his MBA at INSEAD in France, but also while working as a consultant for Deloitte Consulting in the United States. He returned to India in 2005 and started working for the Indian Express Group (IE). From there, he went to HTML. Working with the content license managers of information databases showed Bhakuni that “there is much demand for good quality content from India.”

When it began, Contify had no competition in India. No one else was aggregating and distributing content to information databases. The founders said they didn’t have to worry too much about competition from large international aggregators such as the Financial Times (FT) and SyndiGate, either. Although FT and SyndiGate were distributing content from Indian publishers, the exorbitant cost of partnering with small and medium sized publishers in India deterred FT from entering Contify’s market.

With the help of his long-time friend, Kapil Bharti, Bhakuni founded Contify in April 2009. True bootstrappers, Bhakuni and Bharti started Contify by investing the $2,200 needed to register it. The company had one customer. A mutual friend, who had a company of his own, provided the founders with free office space. After two months, Bharti and Bhakuni moved their operations to the basement of a house in south Delhi. While Bhakuni signed, as he said, “major deals to acquire new publisher partnerships,” Bharti provided the technology platform that, Bhakuni said, guaranteed the efficient delivery of their partners’ content. Content services paid their expenses for the first six months of business. At that time, they started hiring more people and began paying themselves salaries. They remained focused on cash flow and only spent money generated from the business. Though Bharti moved on in 2010, Contify continued to grow. Today, the company boasts annual revenues between $1 million and $2 million with approximate profit margins ranging from 25% to 30%.

They charge anywhere from $1 to $11 per document and take a share of that customer-generated revenue. They then share a portion of their earnings with the publishers who provide them with the content they distribute. The extra revenue, earned without having to make additional investments, is what Bhakuni thinks is the most important benefit a publisher derives from a partnership with Contify. Besides shared revenues, the company also introduces publishers to a wide distribution network for their content via large global information databases like LexisNexis and Dow Jones Factiva, as well as control over the provided content.

“We give far better control on content distribution because we do not give further re-distribution rights to the content customers,” said Bhakuni. “In our agreement, we give the content publishers the right to audit our books. This clause makes our business model completely transparent and risk free.” Contify’s total transparency is what Bhakuni believes sets the company apart from its competitors.

Bhakuni admits that the market for content syndication to information databases has its limits. “There are only a few large information databases,” said the India Institute of Technology graduate. “Growth potential comes from aggregating more content that is better and difficult to find.”

Bhakuni started a division in Contify for typing content from hard copies of magazines when a customer wanted to source content from ACP Publications, one of the largest publishers in Australia, but ACP only provided its content in digital format.

“After developing this capability, we now have a large list of unique content from publishers who are not able to distribute the content because of technology contraints,” said Bhakuni.

The founder plans to continue expanding Contify’s portfolio of publications, but also wants to take the company beyond the realm of distribution and into licensing information products based on Contify’s aggregated content. After working out all the technical problems, the company launched its first information prodcuct, Contify Banking, in March 2011. Once they have added capabilities such as email alerts based on saved searches, the product will be ready to market and sell. Future information products centered around such industries as energy, retail and investment, among others could soon appear.

At this time, Bhakuni said he doesn’t have any exit plans for Contify.

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2011

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